WHEN NATALIE FERA WAS FIRST introduced to Michael Carricarte Jr. in late 1998, she was struck by his "gorgeous smile"—and then by something more. "It was his aura," says Fera, 36, a fitness consultant who has since become Carricarte's live-in love. Credit her with sensing the glow of a good heart. Carricarte, 31, is the founder of Miami Inner City Angels, a scholarship program that helps send low-income kids to private schools. And for the past seven years he has been the principal benefactor of St. Francis Xavier—a struggling Miami Catholic school he calls "an oasis in a neighborhood of crimes and drugs." Since reading a news story about the school's financial woes, he has contributed $500,000 to keep St. Francis afloat. He also donates his time. Every Friday morning he stops by to talk to sixth-graders about how to achieve their dreams. "He's our guardian angel," says the school's principal, Sister Michele Dolyk.
The work has brought Carricarte, the millionaire president of family-owned Amedex Insurance Group, not only a sense of purpose but also plenty of female admirers. "His passion for giving is incredibly sexy," says Chris Riley, wife of Miami Heat coach Pat Riley, who works with him on an education charity. Or as Carricarte himself puts it, "I think women think if a man is passionate about his life, he's going to be passionate about his woman." The 6-ft. Carricarte expresses his feelings for Fera with a steady stream of gifts, notes and flowers. His first present: a deep-blue Tiffany crystal heart, left on her car with a poem he wrote himself. "That just lit me," she says.